I get asked a lot if I think that Gary Renard is a fraud. In the circles of A Course in Miracles it’s a common question. It’s also a funny question and I am never quite sure how to answer it. The truth is, I don’t know Mr. Renard. I’ve never met him, never personally attended any workshops with him. Calling someone a fraud always is serious charge, and it’s not one that should be leveled either quickly or casually.
My involvement with Renard boils down to the fact that I’ve read The Disappearance of the Universe. In fact, I read it several times. In the early stages of my study of A Course in Miracles, I found Renard’s book to be accessible and helpful. Even now, when I do not give Mr. Renard as much attention as I did in the beginning, I continue to believe that his first book grasps the core concepts of the course, laying them out in a way that’s easy to understand. There is a reason Gary’s work is relatively popular in the ACIM community, and it’s not all because of Arten and Pursah.
Indeed, Gary’s work is really a sexier – and somewhat condensed version – of Ken Wapnick’s. My understanding is that Gary attended many workshops with Ken and interacted with him over a nontrivial period of time. The influence shows! The understanding of the course advanced by Gary’s ascended masters makes them sound less like visionaries than good students of Wapnick. This isn’t a bad thing. Ken was a solid student of the course and lots of us can benefit by reading him closely. However, it does suggest that Gary’s writing is less celestial and spectacular in origin. It flows – like much course writing does – from the student’s engagement with their teacher.
Do I think that Renard’s humor is a little over the top at times? Yes. A little crude? That, too. But it is possible to read Disappearance without having to simultaneously defend Renard’s style. It’s just another ACIM book. If it’s helpful, great. If it’s not, well, there’s no shortage of authors out there writing books about A Course in Miracles, nonduality, Christ mind and whatever else you might want to pursue.
I know that people get bent out of shape about Arten and Pursah, the ascended masters who purportedly taught ACIM to Renard, and who are featured so prominently in his writing. Come on, they say. A couple of ascended masters showed up in his living room? And he recorded them but then destroyed the tapes? Isn’t it a little too perfect? A little too self-promotional? Oh and hey – isn’t he hawking some vitamins now?
It’s not what somebody else thinks is right or helpful – it’s what is right or helpful for you. And only you – in relationship with the Holy Spirit – can discern that.
Maybe. For me, Arten and Pursah – and the question of whether they are real or literary devices or what – never got in the way of my reading. If Renard said tomorrow that he made them up – which, I should add, I’m pretty confident he’s not going to do – I’d still be grateful for the help the book offered at a critical stage of my learning. And if somebody asked me should they read it, I wouldn’t say no right away. I’d try to get a sense of where they were at in their study, and talk about other authors – Wapnick, Tara Singh, David Hoffmeister and so forth. But in the end, if Renard’s work calls to somebody, who am I to naysay it? We are all finding our way.
The thing is, it always tempting to find something wrong with other course students or teachers. And in truth, we can almost always find something wrong with their teaching. Yet being right is not necessarily synonymous with inner peace (and may even be an impediment to it).
Seek not outside yourself. For all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want you want, insisting where it must be found. What if it is not there? Would you rather be right or be happy? (T-27.VII.1:6-9)
That latter question is so essential to our study of the course – especially when we start deciding that this or that teacher, or this or that approach or perspective is right to the exclusion of all others. As Proverbs 28:19 points out, the secret to joy and abundance is to work our own garden and avoid fantasies and idleness.
When I find myself focusing on all the reasons not to read someone, or not to listen to them, or even brainstorming ways to discredit them, it is almost always a reflection of my own guilt and fear and has nothing to do with this other person.
In other words, my anxiety over this “other” – be it Gary Renard, Ken Wapnick, or Liz Cronkhite – is simply a call to heal my own experience of internal conflict, which is always my own experience of the separation from God. And that is what I am trying to heal; I am not trying to right the ACIM ship itself.
One of the gifts of studying A Course in Miracles, at least for me, was that it helped me look at the external world – which includes my feelings and thoughts – and recognize it as a form of projection. “Projection makes perception” (T-13.V.3:5).
We might more accurately say that projection and perception are inter-related, the one influencing the other in the construction of our experience of a world.
We look inside first, decide what kind of world we want to see and then project that world outside, making it the truth as we see it. We make it true by our interpretations of what it is we are seeing (preface xi).
Thus, if I am walking around feeling like Renard or any other ACIM teacher is a fraud, a phony, a cheat with good marketing skills or whatever, then I know that I have already rendered that judgment against myself. It’s my guilt that I am looking at. So I don’t need to “fix” Renard – or anybody who finds his work helpful or interesting – so much as I need to be cognizant of my own brokenness and the need for healing it engenders.
My suggestion? If you are curious or feel called to do so, then read Renard’s books. Check them against your gut, against your existing understanding of the course, talk to friends, reflect on it in prayer and so forth. Don’t worry so much about the personality or the motives behind the writing and don’t get hung up on the story behind the sales. It’s not what somebody else thinks that is right or helpful – it’s what is right or helpful for you at this particular point in your study and practice. And only you can discern that.
When our focus is on healing, and when we are related to our capacity for the healing power of attention, then we begin to perceive a world in which everyone is a blessing because we are blessing them. All things work for good in that world, because all things are “echoes of the Voice for God” (W-pI.151). Gary Renard, too.